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Alcoholism is defined as any drinking of alcohol that causes serious mental or physical issues. Alcoholism is not a recognized diagnostic entity since there is debate over its definition. Alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence are the most common diagnostic classifications, both of which are defined in their respective sources.

Excessive alcohol use can harm all organ systems, but the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system are most vulnerable. Mental illness, delirium tremens, Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, irregular heartbeat, a decreased immunological response, liver cirrhosis, and an elevated cancer risk are all symptoms of alcoholism. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can be caused by drinking during pregnancy. Because of their smaller body weight, poorer capacity to metabolize alcohol, and larger proportion of body fat, women are more vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol than men. Prolonged, severe alcohol abuse leads to cognitive deterioration and frank dementia in a limited proportion of people. Environment and genetics are two elements that have a role in the development of alcoholism, with each accounting for around half of the risk. Because alcohol consumption can momentarily decrease dysphoria, stress and associated disorders, such as anxiety, are important factors in the development of alcoholism. Someone who has an alcoholic parent or sibling is three to four times more likely to acquire an alcoholic disorder themselves, but only a small percentage of them do.

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